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Polar Biology

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 266–276 | Cite as

Lactation costs in southern elephant seals at King George Island, South Shetland Islands

  • A. R. CarliniEmail author
  • M. E. I. Márquez
  • H. Panarello
  • S. Ramdohr
  • G. A. Daneri
  • H. Bornemann
  • J. Plötz
Original Paper

Abstract

Labelled-water methodology was used to quantify energy costs and energy transfer efficiency in 18 mother-pup pairs of southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) during lactation. During the lactation period, mothers lost a mean mass of 227±47 kg. Mass loss included 22% of the protein, 60% of the fat, and 51% of the energy in the mother’s body upon arrival. Total body-energy reserves at parturition explained 69% of the variation in the total lactation costs and 50% of the variation in the pup’s body energy at weaning. On average, pups retained 48% of the mass, 49% of protein, 53% of fat and 51% of energy lost by their mothers. Greater, fatter females showed a decrease in the efficiency of energy and fat transfer and, at the same time, an increase in the efficiency of protein transfer. This may be due to an increased use of protein as metabolic fuel, as fat demands for milk production increase. There was no evidence that greater total lactation costs influence the ability of mothers to produce a pup in the next breeding season.

Keywords

Lactation Period Elephant Seal Southern Elephant Seal Northern Elephant Seal Stranger Point 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgements

We wish to thank S. Poljak, R. Conde, M. Alcalde, R. Montiel and G. Moreira for field assistance, and S. Valencio, J.L. Nogueira and A. Corbalán for technical assistance. We thank Nucleoeléctrica Argentina S.A. (Centrales Nucleares Atucha I y II), who provided the D2O to perform this study, and Laboratory Holliday-Scott S.A. for providing some of the ketamine used in immobilisation of animals. Our procedures conform to the Code of Ethics of Animal Experimentation in Antarctica. The permit for this work was granted by the Dirección Nacional del Antártico (Environmental Office), Argentina. The authors are grateful for the valued comments and suggestions of two anonymous referees, which improved the paper.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. R. Carlini
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. E. I. Márquez
    • 1
  • H. Panarello
    • 2
  • S. Ramdohr
    • 3
  • G. A. Daneri
    • 4
  • H. Bornemann
    • 3
  • J. Plötz
    • 3
  1. 1.Depto. de Ciencias BiológicasInstituto Antártico ArgentinoBuenos AiresArgentina
  2. 2.Instituto de Geocronología y Geología Isotópica (INGEIS), Pabellón INGEISCiudad UniversitariaBuenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar-und MeeresforschungBremerhavenGermany
  4. 4.Depto. de MamíferosMuseo Argentino de Cs. Naturales “B. Rivadavia”Buenos AiresArgentina

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